Team Finland defeated Team USA to win gold at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship on Jan. 6. As expected, Kaapo Kakko had a monster tournament, but he wasn’t the only prospect that had fans and analysts talking. The Rangers had four prospects — three of whom were first round picks in the 2018 Draft — representing their home countries in Vancouver.
Today we’re going to take a look at how Vitali Kravtsov, K’Andre Miller, Nils Lundkvist, and Nico Gross fared at the 2019 WJC.
Vitali Kravtsov, F | Russia
Kravtsov was undeniably the Rangers most impressive prospect in Vancouver. In seven games, the young Russian forward scored two goals and picked up four assists to finish tied for fourth on Team Russia in scoring. Even more impressive is the fact that Kravtsov, a natural winger, played center for Russia and played through a torn triceps in the playoffs. He also piled up 21 shots in seven games, which was good enough to lead his team.
Per @Boogaard_2 Vitali Kravtsov played with a torn triceps in #WJC playoffs. He started to play C in November. Never played there before. Being a bronze medalist as a 1st line C with 12 games experience at the position is quite an achievement #NYR— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) January 6, 2019
Kravtsov had two multi-point games for Russia — against Denmark and Switzerland — and was noticeable throughout the tournament. It’s also important to note that Kravstov left Russia’s game against Slovakia on January 2 after playing just 6:18. The fact that he played 19:40 against Team USA just two days later and registered eight shots while playing hurt speaks volumes about both his character and ability.
The Kravtsov hype only grew despite limited criticism that he looked soft on the puck. He was undoubtedly an impact player for Russia and excelled at creating chances for both himself and his teammates, especially Klim Kostin.
K’Andre Miller, D | USA
Miller picked up an assist and a silver medal with Team USA. The Badger missed USA’s game on December 31 against Finland due to an illness, which is likely the reason he averaged only 11.54 TOI (all strengths) in the final three games, including just 10:15 in the gold medal game against Finland. Before the 31st, Miller was averaging 16:47 per game for USA.
Miller is a lefty, but was asked to play a lot of hockey on the right side for USA, especially early in the tournament. It’s a shame that Miller’s impact was limited because he was battling an illness. Fortunately, he is eligible for next year’s WJC.
Overall, Miller showed great skills with the puck and the mix of size and speed that convinced the Rangers they had to trade up to get him in the 2018 Draft.
Nils Lundkvist, D | Sweden
Lundkvist had a goal and an assist for Sweden in five games in his first appearance at the WJC. Playing on Sweden’s third pair, Lundkvist was relatively quiet outside of the goal he scored against Kazakhstan on December 31. That was hardly surprising given the role he was playing on Sweden’s blue line. Judging by the optics, his zone exits and coverage were something of a mixed bag, especially later in the tournament.
Lundkvist averaged 16:37 TOI/GP in Sweden’s five games and finished in the red in on-ice goal differential in just one game (against the United States). He also managed to stay out of the box all tournament long. Like Miller and Kravtsov, he too is eligible to play in next year’s WJC.
Nico Gross, D | Switzerland
Gross and Switzerland were one win away from a bronze medal this year, but fell short against Russia on January 5. Gross’ best game of the tournament came in Switzerland’s 5-2 loss to Russia in the bronze medal game. He played 14:50 TOI, registered three shots, and picked up his second assist of the WJC in that contest.
As Team Switzerland has moved to the #WorldJuniors Semifinals, #NYR Prospect Nico Gross says he is trying to "show my skills, my defensive play, my physical game and do my job." pic.twitter.com/B0xFT5RcXm— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 3, 2019
Gross’ worst game was almost certainly against Team Finland on January 4. Gross had two minor penalties in that game, including a costly slashing penalty that gave Finland a 5-on-3 power play. Gross finished the tournament with four minor penalties, two assists, and an average TOI of 15:45.
Despite this being his third trip to the WJC, Gross is eligible for the 2020 WJC. The alternate captain is a lock for Switzerland’s roster next year, especially after his physical play in Vancouver.